Philip Sim is sick to death of nagging paperclips and would like to destroy each and every single oneDo you know what I hate? That stupid little paperclip that's always trying to offer you help while you blunder your way through the latest versions of Microsoft Office.
Now I'm all for online training. I love the fact that rather than scouring through a 10,000 page manual I can click on help, search for a key word and voila, an instant solution to my problem.
But the thing is, if I want online training, I'll ask for it thank you very much. "Intelligent help" sounds like a great idea in theory. Wouldn't if be wonderful if software can see where you're having problems and provide you with help even before you realise you need it? Well, no. It's not wonderful, in fact it's bloody annoying.
I've already got plenty of people who are always more than happy to let me know when I'm stuffing up. I've got a wife, parents and a boss, thank you. I really don't need a paper clip to join in the chorus.
And if I really wanted a guardian smart Alec sitting over my shoulder, would I ask for a cutesy little animated paper clip? I could suffer the concept if Albert Einstein kept popping up in the corner, calmly explaining that "You seem to be having problems with this infuriating and terribly designed excuse-for-software. But don't worry, you need to have an IQ of 180 to run this stuff. Luckily, I do. May I suggest . . ."
But the last thing I need to know is that I'm dumber than a paper clip. And does the rotten little thing always have to be so damn happy that I'm having problems? I don't know about you, but if I'm having difficulties, I want a tutor who is going to be concerned and worried -- not overjoyed!
Imagine if Microsoft wrote teaching manuals for our schools.
"Hahaha. You can't do that equation, little Johnny. Hahahaha. I can. Hahahaha. Let me show you how, it's so easy. Hahahaha."
And anyway, if this paper clip is so damn smart, how come it can't work out that I hate its guts? I can accept that it probably can't hear me screaming "@$&! off, you lousy little &@%!" but the fact that I shut it down the instant it pops up every single time is a pretty good indication that I don't want to hear from it, I reckon.
Why can't it pop up and say: "You don't seem to like me very much. Would you like me to help you configure your preferences so that I'll go away forever?"
And then I want to click "OK", and I want it to cry. I want to see that this godawful little paperclip really understands how much I hate it. I want it to be hurt by that realisation.
In the end, instead of spending its resources on developing intelligent help, I'd like to see Microsoft develop satisfying help. And quite frankly, I can't think of anything more satisfying than obliterating that paper clip which probably means I really do need help.
Philip Sim is the editor of Australian Reseller News. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.